Although efforts are made by international donors on SDG implementation and visibility in the local policy agenda in Serbia. SDG related evaluations are rare and not driven by Government. The Informal Network of Evaluators in Serbia (INES) share their learning from the EvalPartners Flagship 1 Programme to Strengthen National Evaluation Policies and Systems.

Give a brief summary of the Flagship 1 programme that EvalPartners supported on Evaluation as the basis of the evidence-based policy making practice in Serbia

The EvalPartners Flagship 1 project in Serbia aimed to assess the current state with regards to evidence-based policy making in Serbia. It represented an opportunity to provide a brief summary of the existing institutional and regulatory frameworks in the field of developing public policies in Serbia, as well as to elaborate more on the examples of good practice and the most important evaluation studies realised with an aim to improve the quality of public policy documents. The most important result of the project refers to its empirical part: the views of the state representatives related to importance and use of evaluation results in conducting their regular activities.

Do you think evidence is sufficiently used by governments at the national level in Serbia?

Research evidence has still not been sufficiently used when developing public policy documents in Serbia. However, over the last years we could notice solid progress in terms of developing institutional frameworks. However, the extent to which institutions accepted regulative and their capacities are very diverse. Several Government institutions made important steps towards evidence-based ways of thinking, whereas others still do not consider evaluation as important – perceiving the evaluation as an “expense” rather than an investment that will pay off through increased effectiveness of policy measures.

What can evaluators do to become evidence champions and promote the use of evidence at national level? And what are the role of VOPEs specifically?

Evaluators need to provide more illustrative evidence related to good-practice examples. They need to underline specific benefits arising from the evaluation processes in Serbia and abroad. Examples such as “we could do more with the same budget” or “we could have reached desirable outcomes with less funds” could attract attention of the policy makers.

The role of VOPEs refers to strengthening capacities, networking and insisting on respecting evaluation standards.

Broadly, what progress has been made in terms of country-led evaluation of the SDGs in Serbia?

Currently, thanks to global trends and efforts made by some international donors (SDG implementation in Serbia is mainly pushed by GIZ through several donor programmes), the SDGs became more important and visible in the local policy agenda. We could notice that voluntary national reviews are being regularly conducted. However, SDG related evaluations are rare. We could hardly notice causal inference and impact evaluations in Serbia. Also, conducting evaluations is by rule initiated and funded by international donors rather than from the state budget.

What should be the priorities to ensure more country-led evaluations take place in Serbia?

Promotion of good practices is very important. There are two important points relevant for Serbia. First, Serbia needs to adopt a national development strategy and select development priorities for the following decade. On that basis, specific priorities related to the SDG agenda should be recognised. Evaluations are an important step towards developing national development priorities.

Second, we should address the following question: Why are international donors assessing the outcomes of the realised projects in Serbia, and our policy makers are not? Culture of open data, transparent policy making processes and the “theory of change” paradigm need to be promoted and applied whenever possible.

We need to promote an evaluation culture whether we are discussing priorities of security policy, reconsidering the share of the state budget directed for culture, or aiming to regulate public transport in some small city. 

Why does evidence matter in the journey towards 2030?

The answer to this question actually refers to addressing the question “For what reasons are we investing in science?”. Science has two dimensions – fundamental and applied. Both are important for reaching the goals envisaged within the 2030 global development agenda. This is a never-ending battle in which only evidence could make a difference.

What do you think is the meaning of the Global Evaluation Agenda, and how should evaluators approach the EvalAgenda in this Decade of Action?

The Global Evaluation Agenda should help develop effective policies and policy frameworks under which the broader population and different stakeholders are enabled and stimulated to contribute to global development, to raise their voice and participate in creating a better future. The Agenda should define ways in which evaluation can contribute to understanding and promoting sustainable development, social inclusion and equality.

Evaluators should be open-minded, approaching the global agenda with new ideas, pushing the boundaries for evaluation, and launching new partnerships, methodologies, etc.